Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Pitcher's Guide to the Top Pitches in Baseball

By Dustin Peek

There are a variety of pitches in the game of baseball. The number and types of pitches in a pitcher's arsenal can contribute significantly to the performance on the mound. Each pitch is unique and can be used in combination with other pitches to dominate opposing batters. Use the below guide to get a basic understanding of the most popular pitches in the game of baseball.


1. Four-seam fastball - The four-seam fastball is the most common fastball. The four-seam fastball typically has little side-to-side movement and it maximizes a pitcher's velocity. To throw a four-seam fastball, the pitcher grips the ball with his index and middle fingers with the seams perpendicular to his fingers.

2. Two-seam fastball - The two-seam fastball is slightly less popular than the four-seam fastball but is still a very common pitch. The two-seam fastball is slower than a four-seam fastball and it has a slight downward movement. To throw a two-seam fastball, the pitcher grips the ball with his index and middle fingers on the ball where the seams are closest together.

3. Cut fastball (cutter) - This pitch is used when a pitcher wishes to have slightly more movement than a two-seam fastball. The cutter has a small break just before reaching home plate which often can result in a ground ball if the hitter does make contact. To throw this pitch, the pitcher grips the ball similar to a two-seam fastball but applies slight pressure with his middle finger during release.

4. Split-finger fastball (splitter) - The splitter is a fastball that is thrown to maximize fastball movement. When thrown, this pitch appears to be a normal fastball to the batter. However, as this pitch approaches the plate, it has big and sudden downward movement. To throw this pitch, the pitcher grips the ball with his index and middle fingers on either side of the ball thereby "splitting" them. The ball is thrown with a lot of force, but because of the grip, the velocity is slower than a two or four-seam fastball.


1. Circle-change - The circle change is the most common type of changeup. This pitch has movement from left to right with a right-handed pitcher. To throw this pitch, the pitcher grips the ball with his middle, ring, and pinky fingers, and makes a "circle" with his index finger and thumb on the side of the ball. This pitch is thrown with the same arm motion as a fastball, but by taking the index finger off the ball, the velocity is reduced significantly.

2. Knuckleball - The knuckleball is a pitch that is really in a category of its own, but I place it in the change-up category because it has relatively low velocity compared to fastballs. This pitch has very little or no spin and creates a "probing" effect for the hitter. To throw this pitch, grip the ball with the tips of your fingers and the use the tip of your thumb for balance. The idea is to throw a pitch with as little spin as possible to get a true knuckleball "flutter."

Breaking Pitches

1. Curveball - The curveball is one of the first breaking pitches learned by many pitchers. This pitch has a big downward movement and is typically one of the slowest breaking pitches. To throw a curve ball, a pitcher grips the ball with his middle finger on one of the long seams and his thumb on the opposite side of the ball creating a C-shape. The pitcher then releases the pitch in such a way to create significant forward rotation as the ball approaches the plate.

2. Slider - The slider is a breaking pitch that has more velocity than a curveball. The movement is both lateral and downward. It is similar to a cut fastball although the velocity is slower and it has a stronger break. To throw a slider, the pitcher grips the ball like a cut fastball. However, when throwing the ball, more pressure is exerted on the ball with the middle finger to create more spin and more movement.

3. Forkball - The forkball is a breaking pitch very similar to a split-finger fastball. It is gripped like a splitter, but the ball is jammed even deeper between the index and middle fingers. This results in a slower pitch with much more downward "tumbling" movement. To throw this pitch, the pitcher must snap his wrist downward upon release.

There are many varieties of pitches that are not listed here, but the ones listed above are the most common. Using a combination of these pitches can interrupt a batter's balance and rhythm and increase the effectiveness of any pitcher.

Dustin Peek is a former player with a life-long love for the game of baseball. He enjoys helping players of all ages learn the skills necessary to be succesful on the diamond. Do you want to learn more about the top pitches in baseball? Find this and much, much more at:

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